Blood pressure is an important marker of health and a home blood pressure monitor is a wonderful tool for ensuring your numbers stay in the healthy range. A home monitor may lead to savings in health care costs, because you may need fewer visits to the doctor’s office, and it has the advantage of eliminating “white coat hypertension,” the falsely high blood pressure readings that can occur due to the stress of being in the doctor’s office.
All blood pressure monitors have three key parts: the cuff, the gauge, and the stethoscope. On many models, the stethoscope is a built in sensor. Use this buying guide to find the right monitor to fit your health needs, lifestyle, and budget.
As you choose a blood pressure monitor, keep the following in mind:
If you have an abnormal heartbeat, home readings can be inaccurate. Talk to your doctor about whether this is a concern for you.
Your health insurance may partially or fully cover the cost of a home blood pressure monitor. Call to find out before you purchase one.
If your arm is smaller or larger than average, you may need a smaller or larger cuff. If you are unsure whether an arm cuff will fit, ask the pharmacist if you can try before buying.
What they are: With manual monitors, the user inflates the cuff around the arm and listens for the pulse through a stethoscope to determine blood pressure as the cuff deflates.
Why to buy: Once you master their use, manual monitors are accurate and less expensive than most automated models.
Things to consider: Manual monitors are more difficult to use than automated models, requiring more practice to learn or even another person to operate it.
Semi-Automatic & Automatic Arm Sleeve Monitors
What they are: These devices have built-in stethoscopes with readings displayed on a digital screen. With semi-automatic monitors, the user inflates the cuff, while fully automatic monitors inflate the cuff for you.
Why to buy: These monitors typically are more expensive than manual options, but may vary in price depending on features. If you are looking for the most accurate and easiest way to store and track blood pressure readings over time, these models are a good option.
Things to consider: If you’re more concerned about cost than ease of use, manual options may be a better choice.
Wrist & Finger Monitors
What they are: These newer devices allow a smaller cuff to be placed on the wrist or on a finger, instead of on the upper arm.
Why to buy: Putting on and taking off these monitors is easier than manipulating an arm cuff.
Things to consider: Although they tend to fall in the same cost range as automatic arm monitors, these monitors tend to be less accurate and lead to more errors than arm cuff monitors.
What they are: Depending on your budget and health tracking needs, you may want to consider spending extra dollars to purchase a digital monitor with more advanced features, including memory to store readings over time and computer software to track and graph your readings on a computer or mobile device.
Why to buy: Advanced features allow you to track blood pressure over time. Along with a few observations and notes, this can help you uncover connections between your behaviors, such as what you’ve eaten or how much you’ve exercised, and your blood pressure readings. Understanding these connections can help you take positive, effective actions to improve your health.
Things to consider: Advanced features cost more and may take more time to learn how to use. Many come with good instructions but if you’re uncomfortable with computers you may find these features take significant effort to learn and use.